I’m not much for Hallmark holidays — you know Valentine’s, Christmas, etc. — but I am big on personal celebrations — marking those important events in our lives. I try to remember birthdays and celebrate anniversaries, remembering that these are the true momentous occasions.

Which is why, I suppose, that I feel compelled to acknowledge this month as the fourth anniversary of my RA diagnosis and starting this blog.

Both the diagnosis and the blog have changed my life in unexpected ways, but I think the blog has had the more profound impact. Being a somewhat antisocial individual (yes, I cancelled my Facebook account and wondered why I had one to begin with), I have felt connected to a community in ways that I never thought possible. The encouragement and support that is available in the RA blogging community is as powerful as any in-person group I’ve ever encountered. It is this community that has made the greater difference in my life.

That’s not to say that RA hasn’t changed my life, because it has. Like many people when they’re first diagnosed, I was obsessed with statistics and convinced that I would be in the percentile of those disabled within five years of a diagnosis. But here I am, still working 60-hour weeks and traveling every chance I get. I do, however, have a lot less strength and stamina, and when a major flare hits, I go running for the pain killers and bed covers. But on a day-to-day basis, my life isn’t that different from it was four years ago.

I guess the gift on this day of [questionable] celebration is the wisdom I’ve acquired in the last four years. Every person is different and the disease affects everyone differently. Each person has to make the best decisions they can as individuals in the course of their treatment. And while there are many people who suffer disability due to RA, there are many, many others that lead full, productive lives (like me). So, if you are newly diagnosed, take heart from my experience and the millions like me. And if you’re an “old friend” reading this post, thank you for your support, your answers, your hugs, and your friendship.

Thank you for checking in for the last four years.